Life Cycle Analysis of School Lunch Waste

Document Type

Student Presentation

Presentation Date


Faculty Sponsor

Scott Lowe


This project presents a life cycle analysis of the solid waste generated by local K-12 schools. We focus primarily on the waste produced during meal periods, locate the “pain points” in the waste stream, and provide alternatives and recommendations. Specifically, we analyze the waste generated at South Junior High School and Timberline High School. In performing our waste audit, we separated the waste by similar categories and quantified the amount of waste by volume. Our analysis of the waste stream found that many of the waste products are lightweight and have a high volume to weight ratio. This is problematic because Republic Services (the waste collection agency) charges by a fixed volume instead of by weight. The greatest pain point is the extensive use of Expanded Polystyrene (EPS, or plastic #6) which occupies a large volume of space, does not biodegrade and is often confused for food by animals, causing a painful death. We present alternatives to EPS, including mushroom mycelium plates, sugarcane-bagasse plates, plastic serving baskets, and ceramic trays, all of which present a much lower environmental impact.

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